Life and Letters of Sir Thomas Wyatt

By Kenneth Muir | Go to book overview
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II
Wyatt and Anne Boleyn

Her that ded set our country in a rore1

In this line, about 'Brunet' -- a line which he afterwards altered -- Wyatt, long after the event, described the woman whose fall put his own life in jeopardy. His love for Anne Boleyn, whether purely platonic or purely sensual, a paper courtship which was not meant to be taken seriously or a genuine passion which used poetry as a means of achieving its end, is the most controversial episode in the life of the poet. It is impossible to be sure of what really happened, not because of any lack of evidence, but because what facts there are appear to be inextricably mingled with gossip and legend.

The date of Anne Boleyn's birth has been put as early as 1501 and as late as 1511. Even her parentage has been disputed. Those who were eager to believe the worst about Queen Elizabeth's ancestry assumed not merely that Henry VIII was not her father, but that he was her grandfather. Anne's supposed father, it was said, had been abroad when she was conceived, and her actual father was the King.2 It was rumoured that Anne's sister had been Henry's mistress, so that his marriage with Anne could be regarded as invalid.

Anne, as a child, accompanied Mary Tudor to France in 1514 and

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1
Wyatt, Poems, No. 95. The correction reads "set my welth in such a rore".
2
N. Sander, Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism ( 1877), p. 24, records that Sir Francis Bryan 'was once asked by the king to tell him what sort of sin it was to ruin the mother and then the child'. Bryan replied 'that it was a sin like that of eating a hen first and its chicken afterwards'. The king burst forth into loud laughter and said to Bryan, 'Well, you certainly are my vicar of hell'. Cromwell, in a friendly letter to Bryan, calls him 'the vicar of hell'. But Bryan was a hard-working diplomat, to whom Wyatt addressed one of his satires, and one suspects that his nickname should not be taken too seriously.

-13-

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